More than 9 million local residents are planning year-end getaways, the largest travel volume on record for the Christmas-New Year holiday period, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

By the numbers

More than 88 percent of local and statewide travelers are expected to drive to their destinations, while 8.5 percent will fly and three percent will go by other means such as train, bus or cruise. Below are this year’s Auto Club holiday travel projections for the year-end holiday period, defined as the 12 days from Dec. 21 to Jan. 1:

“With unemployment at record lows and household net worth at record highs, more Americans and Southern Californians are feeling able to afford holiday vacations,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services.

Andre recommends that air travelers arrive at the airport at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights, particularly if their departure is on the three most congested days for flights – Saturday, Dec. 21, Sunday, Dec. 22 and Monday, Dec. 23.

Top Travel Destinations

Anaheim is expected to be the No. 2 destination nationwide for travelers on their year-end getaways, according to AAA Travel booking data, with Orlando at No. 1. The top 5 destinations for Southern California travelers, according to a survey of Auto Club travel agents, are:

  • Las Vegas
  • San Diego
  • Central Coast (Santa Barbara to Monterey)
  • Grand Canyon
  • Mexico (cruises and resort trips)

The top air destination for Southern California travelers is Hawaii, and nationally, Oahu is the third most popular destination and Maui is No. 4.

More Than 246,000 California Motorists Will Need AAA Roadside Assistance

The Auto Club and AAA in Northern California expect to come to the rescue of more than 246,000 motorists statewide over this holiday period. Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires will be the top reasons for member calls. The Auto Club recommends that motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility for needed maintenance before heading out on their travels.

To view a list of local AAA-approved auto repair facilities, visit or use the free AAA Mobile app.

Holiday Hotspots

Because of the extended holiday period and end-of-year business/school closures, traffic congestion is not expected to be as big a factor for holiday year-end travelers as it is for Thanksgiving and three-day-weekend holidays. Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX expects drivers to experience the greatest amount of congestion in the afternoon and evening of Thursday, Dec. 26 and Friday, Dec. 27. Eastbound Interstate 10 between Santa Monica and the Interstate 5 interchange is expected to see 2.8 times more traffic than normal on the evening of Dec. 26.

The Auto Club and INRIX advise travelers to leave either very early in the morning or immediately after the normal morning commute to avoid traffic.

Gas Prices

Southern California gas prices are continuing to drop at a rapid pace, but are still about 25 cents higher per gallon than at this time last year. As the holiday period draws closer, the Auto Club expects more gas stations to post prices for regular unleaded below $3 a gallon.


AAA’s projections for year-end getaways are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the year-end holiday travel period is defined as the 12-day period from Saturday, Dec. 21 to Wednesday, Jan. 1.

In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays.



Image Sources

  • Las Vegas: Image by Suyash Dixit from Pixabay